Posted 7th Feb 2018 by Peter Byrne
At least half of our native hedgehog population has been lost from the British countryside over the last two decades, a report issued by two wildlife charities has warned
The State of Britain's Hedgehogs 2018, published jointly by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), is the only comprehensive review to investigate the status Britain's hedgehogs. The new report has revealed hedgehogs in rural areas are in serious decline, with numbers plummeting by half since the Millennium.
Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street, a public action campaign run by PTES and BHPS, said: "There are many reasons hedgehogs are in trouble. The intensification of agriculture through the loss of hedgerows and permanent grasslands, increased field sizes, and the use of pesticides which reduce the amount of prey available, are all associated with the plunge in numbers of hedgehogs in rural areas."
Approximately 70 per cent of the land in the UK is managed by farmers, with BHPS and PTES planning to engage with the farming community to help to protect this iconic creature.
"Farmers play a vital role in producing food, but they’re also well placed to help protect, maintain and enhance our countryside. The Government recently reiterated plans to reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy to reward landowners for delivering environmental benefits. Many farmers already have a sustainable approach to agriculture, and we think there’s a great opportunity to work more widely with them to stem the alarming decline of our country hedgehogs".
The State of Britain's Hedgehogs report highlights a worrying decline in our countryside, yet it also shows a more positive outlook for hedgehogs in our towns and cities. The species has declined by a third in urban areas since 2000, but the rate of decline has been found to be slowing. In fact, hedgehogs are not disappearing from urban green spaces as rapidly as they were fifteen years ago and could be returning. Where they are found, numbers too, seem to be increasing.
It's exciting to think the combined efforts of thousands of volunteers who have joined Hedgehog Street and are making their gardens more hedgehog-friendly, could be making a difference. PTES and BHPS launched Hedgehog Street in 2011 to inspire the British public to help hedgehogs and other wildlife that depend on their gardens - so far, there have been over 47,000 Hedgehog Champions sign up.
Wilson concluded: "Urban and suburban areas are becoming increasingly important for hedgehogs, so we need more people in those locations to sign up as Hedgehog Champions. Hedgehogs are a generalist species, so the more people can do to help them in their own back garden, the more they will also benefit other wildlife."
Image courtesy of Steve Heliczer